Posted: 02/16/2003




by Chris Wood

The Devil’s getting a good name with this well-done superhero movie.

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In 1935, it had been stated that the first American comic book was created by, New Fun, later named, DC Comics, the creators of the Superman comics. Really, ever since cavemen wrote on dwelling walls to tell a story, an interest in storytelling by-way-of pictures, has been present. Hey, it’s easier than reading, and a picture is supposed to be worth a thousand words, right?

Circa 1964, Stan Lee, known for his Hulk and Spiderman characters, began a comic called Daredevil, written as a bi-monthly comic, like all of Marvel Comics’ original titles. Daredevil, known to those who don’t know his secret identity as Matt Murdock, is a pro bono lawyer who has his own version of justice outside the courtroom, seeking revenge for the victims that the justice system has overlooked. But life is not all good for the crime fighter as his crutch comes to him in the form of blindness.

Transforming the paper version to the big screen was a task that Kevin Smith (Clerks, Mall Rats) vied for, as he is quite a fan, and actually one of the most respected writers for the comic. But instead, Mark Steven Johnson (Simon Birch) was the choice as director, and Smith was happy to take a small cameo part in the movie as Jack Kirby, Lab Assistant. “Pretty Awesome!” Smith exclaimed, when asked what it was like to be in the Daredevil movie. “It’s sort of like playing Daredevil himself—which I’m in no shape for.”

The history of the ox blood cloaked “man without fear” began in the mean streets of Hell’s Kitchen—location, lower west side, Manhattan, NY. Young Matthew and his father, Jack Murdock (David Keith, An Officer And A Gentleman), live in a run down apartment (I look at it as a fixer-upper) and Matt is the object of much ridicule from neighborhood tuffs. His father, a rambunctious boxer, whose fighting style was given likeness to the Devil’s, is in the employ of a crime boss, later known as Kingpin. Jack’s trade is to put the fear of God into gamblers who can’t pay. When young Matt sees his father “giving the business” to a dockworker, he flees the scene in a frenzy of sadness and anger. This results in an unfortunate accident where toxic chemicals are sprayed into his eyes, rendering him blind.

When Matt comes to in his hospital bed, he notices very quickly that although he is without sight, somehow, his other four senses have become very acute, particularly his hearing. He and father make a pack to go the long road, but the pre-Daredevil looses his Dad when Jack refuses to throw a fight. Matt, using inner monologue over his father’s still body, refuses to allow injustice to per vale, and vows to someday find his father’s killer. A rose is left on his father’s body, which is foreshadowing, so pay attention!

Ben Affleck (Good Will Hunting, Sum of All Fears) takes on the role of Matt Murdock/Daredevil and Jon Favreau (Swingers, Made) is his buddy and law practice partner, Franklin “Foggy” Nelson. Foggy and Murdock take on clients who are not just innocent, but apparently poor, as payment comes in the means of goods and not the almighty dollar. Example: a client pays the two JDs in Flute, a type of fish.

Murdock’s heightened senses are useful, as he can detect a criminal’s irregular heartbeat when they take the stand, thus knowing their guilt, or actually be able to use his hearing as radar. But these powers have their downfall. In fact, Murdock’s hearing is so powerful and sensitive that he must sleep in a water-filled sarcophagus in order to escape the constant decibels he can detect. No-good “bad guy,” Bullseye (Colin Farrell, The Recruit, Tigerland), eventually realizes the kryptonite-like effect noise pollution can do to the true-blue hero in red.

And, of course, what’s a superhero movie without a love interest for the protagonist? Jennifer Garner (Alias) was cast as Elektra Natchios (“sounds like an appetizer at a Mexican restaurant,” says Foggy), who is very, very skilled in the various arts of self-defense and butt kicking. Elektra and Matt break the ice with a friendly game of who-can-beat-the-other-up in a playground. Children watch in the playground with wide eyes as the blind lawyer and beauty try to outdo the other using martial arts and acrobatics. The two are also able to bond because they have both lost a parent—Matt his father and Elektra her mother. Elektra’s father, Ambassador Nickolaos Natchios, a billionaire, has just gotten on the bad side of tycoon Wilson Fisk (Michael Clarke Duncan, The Green Mile, The Whole Nine Yards) by selling back his portion of the Kingpin’s empire.

Another piece of the puzzle in the equation of this, or any superhero movie, is the noisy reporter. Joe Pantoliano (Sopranos, The Matrix) plays Ben Urich, a reporter for The Globe who is hot on the trail of the presumed mythical Daredevil.

The look and feel of the movie does resemble that of a comic book, which should be the general idea. Johnson used great special effects, but did not go overboard, which would have detracted from the story. “Mad props” should be given to the cool point-of-view depicting how Daredevil uses his hearing as radar. Sonic images flash across the screen that will have viewers bobbing and weaving as if they actually are the visionless “man without fear.” “These guys know what they’re doing,” Smith said about the authenticity of the picture.

The movie had a good pace, not dragging, and the story was not tricky or forced. Also, and most importantly, it did not get too “cheesy,” as other superhero-comics-turned-movies like Spiderman did. It may sound strange, but I believe most audiences can relate to this hero. Comics, although over the top with all their superpowers, are written with human character traits in mind. Most people have hardships to try and overcome or simply deal with, and the character of Daredevil is no different…just more exciting.

Chris Wood would easily choose the gift of flight over the gift of invisibility…how ‘bout you?

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